Great CFL Pivots: Dieter Brock

Great CFL Pivots: Dieter Brock
Reading Time: 5 minutes.

There has been some discussion on the CFL site recently about quarterbacks. The current best, and the best five of all time have been up for debate.

So far we have taken a look at some great players who didn’t make that top five list. We started with Ron Lancaster, moved on to Tom WilkinsonTracy HamTom Clements, and Sam Etcheverry. We also looked at one player who did make the list, – Damon Allen.

Now it is time to look at a star with a famously strong arm – ‘The Birmingham Rifle’, Dieter Brock.

A powerful arm joins the CFL

Ralph Dieter Brock was born February the 12th 1951 in Birmingham, Alabama. He didn’t play football until his freshman year in highschool. However, once he got the pigskin in hand he made an impression.

He would go on to become the starting QB at Jacksonville State. During his time at the helm they averaged 35.4 points per game during his Senior season. He is a member of the team’s Hall of Fame.

Brock’s production was pretty good. But he was ignored by the NFL and went unchosen in the 1974 draft. With no call from the NFL or the nascent WFL, Brock was convinced to head North by Bud Riley.

Dieter Brock – CFL Star

In typical fashion, the Birmimgham Rifle cocked and ready to fling the ball downfield.
Image from 3downnation.

Dieter Brock was not a prototypical CFL quarterback for his era. He was certainly not a running QB, more of a pure, drop back passer. But he had arguably one of the strongest arms in the history of the CFL and made a mark in the league at a time when it was becoming much more pass oriented. 

Brock began his career in 1974 in Winnipeg and stayed with the Bombers until partway through the 1983 season, finishing his career in 1984 with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Chuck Ealey was the Winnipeg QB in 1974 when Brock arrived in town. Ealey was the 1972 Most Outstanding Rookie. He had been Grey Cup MVP and won a ring that same year with Hamilton. However, he was oft-injured with Winnipeg and that opened the door for Brock.

Dieter Brock Bombs it for Winnipeg

Following limited action in his rookie year, Brock saw Ealey traded to Hamilton in 1975 and took over as the starter. His first season hardly set the world on fire. But he steadily improved over the next few seasons. 

The best seasons came between 1980 and 1982. A period that saw him throw over 500 passes for more than 4000 yards per season with his completion per centage much improved too.

Brock was named a Western All-Star in all three seasons and All-Canadian in 1980 and 1981.  Brock also won the Most Outstanding Player award in the CFL in 1980 and 1981. 

In 1981, Brock also broke a long-standing CFL record with his 4,796 passing yards, surpassing the former mark of 4,723 set by Sam Etcheverry in 1956.

He was traded to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1983 where he spent the next two seasons. The veteran savvy showed through as Brock took his team to the Grey Cup in 1984 against his former Winnipeg team.

That game was lost 41–17, so Dieter Brock finished his CFL career without a championship. However playing in the Grey Cup was a nice way to cap a great CFL career.

A Winnipeg Great

Dieter Brock may have played for Winnipeg and Hamilton. And been involved with an acrimonious contract dispute in Winnipeg. But he is predominantly remembered as a great in the Blue and Gold of Winnipeg. Small wonder then that you will find him on the team’s Ring of Honour.

But how does his time in Winnipeg stand up to scrutiny today? Well, to start with he remains one of only seven Bombers to be named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player. Brock is the only one to win league MOP in back-to-back seasons too (1980 and 1981). He was also named the Bombers Most Outstanding Player four times (1978, 1980, 1981, 1982).

San Diego Chargers legendary QB Dan Fouts (1979-81) and Brock (1980-82) were the first two QB’s in pro football history to throw for over 4,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.

Winnipeg was 10-6 in both 1976 and 1977 with Brock at the helm. Between 1980-82 the Bombers had some great teams without producing a championship. Winnipeg went 32-16 over that stretch and twice lost to an Edmonton team in the midst of their five-championship dynasty – in the ’80 and ’82 West Finals.

Brock finished his playing days as the second leading passer in CFL history, behind only Ron Lancaster at the time. Of course as the passing game has come more into vogue he has slipped down this list. However he remains the Bombers all-time leader in passing yards (29,623), completions (2,167) and TD passes (187).

Dieter Brock – 34 year old rookie

Dieter Brock wearing #5 for the Los Angeles Rams talks with head coach
John Robinson during a game in 1985 . Image from sportscasting.com

Brock made his career in the CFL. But he also had enough of an impact to catch the eye of the NFL.

Eventually word of Brock’s incredible arm managed to reach some NFL front offices. So it was that in 1985, he signed a four-year deal with the LA Rams. At the time, the 34-year-old was the oldest rookie quarterback in NFL history.

The NFC West team was a good landing spot as they had a power running game in place built around Star running back (and one of the few 2,000 yard men in pro football), Eric Dickerson.

When asked what he thought of his new team-mate Dickerson, answered, “He’s soooo old.”

The Rams O Line could have done a better job of protecting the new “sooo old” arrival. He suffered 51 sacks in the 1985 season. Despite that however he, and the Rams found success. They blended Dickerson’s 1,234 rushing yards with the veteran play of Brock. He completed 59.7% of his passes covering 2,658 yards. He also threw 16 touchdowns (against 13 interceptions).

Brock led the Rams to a 7-0 start. Alongside the oldest rookie record that set another NFL record for longest win streak by a quarterback in his first year with a team.

End of the Road

The Rams would stumble at the end of the season but still win the NFC West with an 11-5 record (Brock was 11-4 as a starter). Along with everybody else in the NFC that year however, the Rams (And Brock) were eventually demolished by the famous Bears and their ’46 D’ 24-0 in the NFC Championship Game.

It would be Brock’s last game due to back pains. But he left a mark. Rams’ Head Coach John Robinson commented, “I’ve coached a lot of great quarterbacks in my day, including Dan Fouts when he was at Oregon. This guy may be the best I’ve ever seen throwing the ball.”

If you Liked this

If you enjoyed a bit of CFL history and don’t just want to focus on the O, then we did run a series of articles making ‘the case for the D’ and focusing on special teamers too.

The case for the D focused on CFL defensive greats like Herb Gray, Willie PlessAngelo MoscaDickie HarrisNorm FieldgateWayne HarrisGrover CovingtonBill Baker, & Jim Corrigall.

The focus on special teams included the likes of Pinball ClemonsHenry ‘Gizmo’ WilliamsLui PassagliaBob CameronBarron MilesPaul Osbaldiston, & Dave Cutler. Go take a look if you are interested!

We also have some general CFL history articles that may be of interest. Looking at defunct teams, an amazing 8 TD display, the 15 win teams, and CFL ‘international fixtures.’

Banner image from bluebombers.com

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